Broadly speaking, the Liberal Party is a party that promotes government intervention. However, being the party to the right of centre in Australian politics, it has members within it that promote libertarian policies and others who are generally interested but not fully committed to free market policies. This second group of people join the Liberal Party thinking they believe in free markets, thinking they are joining a free market party. They may be in favour of good economic management, central banking, appropriate regulation, centralisation of power (to promote competition), public schooling (to promote opportunity), and turn a blind eye to military adventure. Libertarians can promote their case to these people in the Liberal Party who are interested in free market ideas but have not yet been presented with the full liberty package.
While this is true, on the other hand, for a member of the Liberal Party, an awful lot of time can be wasted in campaigning for candidates who do not share your libertarian views (essentially becoming a tool of the state). Finding a free market candidate can be a rare event in the Liberal Party. For a Liberal member of parliament, much of their time can be taken up with enquiries about Centrelink (welfare), and the administration of government programs that they would prefer to see abolished.
In addition, because the Liberal Party is a major party, the policies it promotes are limited by the views of opinion leaders and the general public. Even if a Liberal member of parliament was in favour of libertarian policies, he may find himself promoting an interventionist policy on national television, in order to gain or maintain power.
Because of this, some may see joining the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) as a way to promote a more pure form of liberty to the Australian people. While the LDP is certainly closer to liberty than the Liberal Party, it is by no means a libertarian paradise. Looking at the LDP policies on taxation and welfare, the LDP policy is for a 30 percent tax on income above $30,000, and for replacing existing welfare programs with a negative income tax on income below $30,000. I ask you, is any libertarian going to die in a ditch waving the flag of liberty, for one-third slavery, and a guaranteed government income? Even the supposedly libertarian party is not sold on libertarianism!
Nevertheless, if a libertarian party were to gain the balance of power in the Senate, it would have a much greater willingness and ability to negotiate with the government compared to any libertarian members of a major party who would most likely be committed to following the party line.
While there are both costs and benefits for any option, there is no right or wrong role. There are different roles for different people. Some may work best promoting libertarianism within the Liberal Party, while others may prefer the somewhat greater ideological purity of an explicitly libertarian party. Others may be more effective in a think tank or teaching at a university. These are all legitimate options. The important thing is that every libertarian must engage in the role that best suits his talents.
© Danny Haynes